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July 2015

More shocking than a trip to the emergency room? The balanced billing afterward.

Balanced Billing

A trip to the emergency room can be a harrowing experience. But sometimes, the experience after the ER visit can be the real horror.

Because of a practice called “balance billing,” patients may receive bills from a variety of providers who were involved – in some way or another – in that fateful ER visit weeks or months after being treated.

Even when the patient is treated at a hospital within their health plan network, they may receive egregious bills from various providers who staff the ER but choose not to be part of the patient’s health insurance plan network.

The good news is that patients who have fully-insured health insurance may have another avenue to resolve the pile of unexpected bills: mediation.

Read Teresa McUsic’s Savvy Consumer column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to learn more about the issue and what to do if it affects you.

UnitedHealthcare helps East Texas Food Bank feed hungry seniors, achieve fundraising goal


In today’s Texas, where the economy is booming and opportunities abound, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could go hungry. But hunger and lack of nutrition plague far too many families in the Lone Star State, contributing to the state’s rank of 31st out of the 50 states in overall health, according to UnitedHealthcare’s America’s Health Rankings® 2014 report.

These issues are particularly worrisome for the older population, which is even more vulnerable to negative health outcomes related to food insecurity than other adults. A recent study by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans found that food insecure seniors have a much higher risk for chronic health conditions.

When compared to seniors who have reliable food sources, food insecure seniors are:

  • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
  • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
  • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
  • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

In response to the needs of local senior citizens, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas recently awarded $5,000 to the East Texas Food Bank to support its Senior Box Program to help improve the nutrition and health of senior citizens in and around Smith County, where some 43,000 individuals are food insecure (source: Feeding America Map the Meal Gap 2015). UnitedHealthcare’s contribution also enabled East Texas Food Bank to reach its $25,000 fundraising goal that enabled it to qualify for another $25,000 matching grant.



JOIN for ME childhood obesity program grows in Hidalgo County, even as its participants shrink

Join For Me

“You are what you eat.”

It’s a well-known saying that most people hear from an early age.

But with about a third of all children in the U.S. considered obese or overweight, it seems that talking the talk does not necessarily mean walking the walk. Between the temptations of tasty and readily-available convenience food and ever-increasing portion sizes, Texas children are experiencing health conditions once reserved for the most unhealthy adults. Obesity in children raises risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also leads to lost time at school, decreased parental productivity and higher health care costs.

In an effort to help reverse the alarming trend, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in Edinburg and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance to launch the JOIN for ME initiative aimed at reducing obesity rates in Hidalgo County, which are among the highest in the nation.

JOIN for ME is a groundbreaking and life-changing program that engages kids considered obese or overweight – along with their families — in a series of group sessions and activities over a 16-week period.

Nine families recently completed the series of classes, which began in February. One of the families – the Guardiola family — was featured in a June news story in the McAllen Monitor. When 12-year-old Michael was diagnosed with high cholesterol and told to lose weight, his mother Eva turned to JOIN for ME for help and ideas. In addition to learning about ways to change the family’s diet and incorporate more exercise, JOIN for ME also has a full-time wellness coordinator and on-site coaches from Doctors Hospital.

JOIN for ME was developed by the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization. In the original proof-of-concept study, JOIN for ME partnered with the YMCA of the USA and the YMCA of Greater Providence, R.I. The study demonstrated that the combination of whole-family engagement helped participants achieve significant reductions in extra weight. After six months, 84 percent of the 155 participants completed the full program and achieved, on average, a 3.5-percent reduction in extra weight.

The Guardiolas and other families were part of the second session of JOIN for ME. The results in Hidalgo County are exciting and promising – the JOIN for ME program is continuing to grow in popularity, as the community watches its participants continuing to shrink!